Community Partners in Lanesboro Work On Housing Solutions, with Help from MHP’s Housing Institute

Through its participation in MHP’s Housing Institute, Lanesboro partners are working to address the area’s severe lack of available housing and create solutions. Established in 2010, MHPs Housing Institute brings together housing leaders and stakeholders to share their experiences, learn best practices, and develop creative solutions to bring quality affordable housing to their communities.
MHP’s Seventh Round of the Housing Institute, which was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, is the first entirely virtual institute. To ensure community teams from Preston, Lanesboro, Fairmont, Owatonna, and Lewiston Minnesota could participate and advance their community initiatives, MHP moved all institute networking, training exercises and development goals to an online platform. While an all-virtual environment has had challenges, each team has shared both continued commitment and a lot of needs around housing goals that the Housing Institute continued to support.
Individual teams, such as Lanesboro, are looking at potential projects, land availability and local funding sources to use in development. Resources provided through the Housing Institute have included a workshop on how best to build a consistent message to different audiences, convening a regional advisory committee comprised of state and rural housing funders as well as developers and local economic development practitioners, and a presentation on local government financial tools that can be used to increase affordable housing in rural communities.
The Lanesboro team, which includes; Desiree Borth-Ferrie, Jeff Brogle, Philip Dybing, Ben Gorman, Eliza Mitchell, Michele Peterson, Elliot Riggott, Matt Schultz, Wyatt Seablom and Cathy Enerson, have documented their efforts to date through photos and this blog post.

What is home? By Ben Gorman – Thursday, 20 May 2021

It’s a big question. Is home a building or a community? Is it found in the emotional landscape or the built environment? For some, the answer only arises from a complex interplay among emotional and practical considerations; for others, the answer is quite simple: “Home is where you hang your hat.” For too many, there is no answer, or the answer is unknown. Those of us fortunate enough to have a place we call home would do well to reflect on what constitutes our sense of home, what makes it real for us.

Members of the Lanesboro Burro Borough, brought together by the Minnesota Housing Partnership, may, individually, have different definitions of home, but we all agree that home is a vital part of our well-being and recognize that everyone should have a place to call home. We also agree that in Lanesboro we have a place which, for us, is worthy to call home, a place where we can thrive—and where we hope others can thrive as well: neighbors old and new that we hope to call friends.

Our collective love and respect for Lanesboro, and our interest in this community’s future, led us to engage the Minnesota Housing Partnership program and embark on the 18-month journey to identify and engage opportunities to improve our housing stock and help existing and prospective residents find places here to call home.

Lanesboro, Minnesota, in Fillmore County, as seen on the approach descending the hill on Route 8.

So far, it has been a journey of learning and growth and discovery—with a few surprises along the way, like all the best journeys have! Inventorying the positive aspects our little hometown was the easy part; we readily recognize the features and quirks that drew us here and keep us here—we even agree on most of them! But identifying the barriers and helping to create a shared vision of how to facilitate an expansion of high quality, affordable and equitable housing in Lanesboro took a little more creative thinking. Fortunately, with the help of experienced and creative minds like Cathy Enerson of Community and Economic Development Associates and Warren Kramer of Minnesota Housing Partnership—indeed, with the whole talented team at MHP in our corner—we are working on defining our challenges and setting goals to overcome them.

What we’ve learned in the process will help us to build a better Lanesboro community, not just—our primary goal—by adding suitable housing stock to our local market, but by understanding the needs and challenges we face as residents, as neighbors, as contributors to the local community. We all believe in our little ’boro—with its population of proud Burros!—and we want to see it thrive well into the future.